My Dead Body, a pioneering documentary partly filmed at BSMS, is due to be broadcast in early December on Channel 4.
Charting the life of Toni Crews, My Dead Body tells the story of Toni’s illness with cancer before and after her death, narrated in her own words. This film shows the dissection of Toni’s body during a series of educational workshops, with the intention of educating viewers on the science of cancer and its journey through the human body.
The film follows Professor Claire Smith, Head of Anatomy at BSMS, and her team as they dissect Toni’s body and chart the course of the disease from the initial diagnosis to her death four years later.
By understanding exactly what caused Toni’s symptoms and building a timeline of how the cancer developed, this unique study will support decades of research for medical students and academics, with the aim of helping the lives of countless people for years to come.
Professor Claire Smith, Head of Anatomy at BSMS and Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Education and Innovation at the University of Sussex. Photo credit: Channel 4
Professor Smith said: “We have been so privileged to explore the journey of cancer through the incredible donation made by Toni. As part of this documentary, we were able to invite more than 1,000 students, including nurses, paramedics and neuroscientists, who wouldn’t normally get to learn about this one-in-a-million cancer.
“Toni’s gift of body donation doesn’t end with this documentary either; her body will be used to educate our medical students and doctors for years to come.”
The story has captured the imagination of the mainstream media, with Toni's decision and Professor Smith's groundbreaking dissection being covered in many news outlets.
Diagnosed with a rare cancer of the tear gland in 2016, which led to her eye being removed, Toni discovered her cancer was terminal in 2020 and made the decision to continue to raise awareness of the disease – even after her death. She not only agreed to donate her body to medical science but also chose to give consent for it to be on public display.
She died in August 2020 at the age of 30, and in 2022 Toni became the first public display cadaver in the UK since records began 180 years ago, and the first British cadaver to be seen being dissected in such a way, for almost 200 years.
Around one thousand students learned directly from the dissection sessions undertaken at BSMS. As well as medical and nursing students, this included neuroscientists, physiotherapists and mental health nurses. Each one of those will go on to treat tens of thousands of patients in their professional life.
Find out more about the documentary here >
Find out more about anatomy aT BSMS here >